Daily Herald
Lake County girls captain: Michelle O'Brien
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 3/4/2010 8:47 PM

With every missed shot by her teammate, the story goes, she hustled like mad to grab the rebound. Michelle O'Brien kept scrapping for those boards, kept getting them and kept feeding her little teammate who hadn't scored a point all season.

And then her Buffalo Grove Park District teammate, finally, buried a bucket.

O'Brien, who had begged her coach to stay in the game so she could help her teammate score, had dished out maybe the biggest assist she's still ever recorded.

"Of all the things she's done," said John O'Brien, who lights up when telling that story from several years ago about his daughter, "I think that's what I'm most proud of about her."

Michelle O'Brien was a team player and star then, and she remains both today. After smoothly transitioning from forward the last two seasons to guard, and averaging 16.3 points and 9.1 rebounds in helping Stevenson win 21 games, the 5-foot-11 junior has been named captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area girls basketball team.

A varsity player since her freshman year, "O.B.," who's called that nickname by even her dad, heads into next season 48 points shy of 1,000 for her career. She ranks seventh all-time in Stevenson history in both scoring and rebounding (644).

"She's just, affectionately, a gym rat," said hall-of-fame coach Tom Dineen, who, after taking the Stevenson job last summer, accurately predicted upon seeing O'Brien play that she would lead his team in scoring and rebounding.

"She just loves the game," Dineen added. "She's the first one there, no matter the time or day, and the last one to leave. It's just refreshing to see a kid like that. On the court, she's relentless. She just goes and goes and goes, on both ends of the court."

Effective shooting the corner 3-pointer, creating her own offense near the basket and able to deliver in the clutch at either end of the court, O'Brien is driven. And not just when it comes to basketball.

"She'll want to compete with her sister (Ashley) and brother (Matt) to see who can finish dinner first," John O'Brien said with a laugh. "It's almost comical."

"They get pretty annoyed with me sometimes," Michelle, the youngest of three children of John and Lisa, said of her siblings. "Sometimes I'm obnoxiously competitive with them, but they deal with it."

Just as she wasn't happy that she averaged "just" 9 rebounds per game this season (her goal was double digits), Michelle isn't content with the 27 she scored on her ACT.

It was her second try, after scoring a 25. She plans on taking the test again.

"The first time, my mom asked me what score I'd be satisfied with on the ACT and I said 36," said O'Brien, aware 36 is perfect. "But that's almost impossible. I'd be satisfied with a 29 or 30. That's my goal."

Her expectations for this season were high, too.

Stevenson lost its season opener to Marist 59-57 but followed up by winning the Maine West Tipoff Classic. O'Brien was named MVP of the tournament after averaging 20.2 points in five games.

"Our confidence was high," she said. "We knew we were (among) the top teams in the area because we played great teams - Marian Catholic, Hersey - and we beat them. We knew we could hang with the toughest teams out there."

O'Brien was also named all-tournament in the Suburban Holiday Showcase. Her season stats also included 36 3-pointers and 69 steals in 29 games. She posted a high game of 26 points and scored 20 points or more 12 times.

Stevenson's season ended with Prospect topping the host Patriots 42-38 in a Class 4A regional final. Of Stevenson's 8 losses, all but one were by fewer than four points, including three in overtime.

Like the Patriots' final loss, her own accomplishments left her not completely satisfied.

"Hopefully I can be an all-stater this year," she said. "If not, I'm still going to work toward that next year."

Her effort won't be questioned.

Captains honor roll

2000-01 - Jenni Dant (Stevenson)

2001-02 - Johanna Solverson (Lake Zurich)

2002-03 - Amy Peters (Warren)

2003-04 - Kayla Ming (Grayslake)

2004-05 - Jenny Eckhart (Carmel)

2005-06 - Sarah Boothe (Warren)

2006-07 - Sarah Boothe (Warren)

2007-08 - Sarah Boothe (Warren)

2008-09 - Lydia Bauer (Lake Zurich)

2009-10 - Michelle O'Brien (Stevenson)